Does your pooch need to go out in the middle of the night?
Or does your dog wake up during the night?
Take a deep breath.
I know this can be worrisome and frustrating.
But there’s no reason to panic. You’re in the right place.
Here you’ll discover:
- Exactly why this happens.
- 6 common situations when dogs wake up during the night.
- 5 effective tips to prevent your canine from waking up in the small hours.
- And much more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog wake up in the middle of the night?
Your dog wakes up in the middle of the night because of pent-up energy, strange noises, and scents, toilet breaks, hunger, thirst, snuggles, discomfort, or anxiety. But this behavior might also be due to sleep disorders, itchiness, urinary or digestive problems, injury, joint issues, and dementia.
13 reasons why dogs wake up in the middle of the night
#1: Frenetic random activity period (FRAP)
Does your pooch often get up at night and run around like crazy?
If so, they must be having some FRAP.
“Wait, what is that?”
It’s another term for zoomies. Or sudden short bursts of high activity in dogs.
This usually happens when canines are excited. And it’s common in puppies who are so energetic.
“Is this normal?”
According to a study, dogs usually have 23 sleep-wake episodes at night within 8 hours.
During each cycle, they may stay asleep for 16 minutes. Then awake for 5 minutes, followed by arousal.
So this is a natural canine thing.
But, AKC also says that zoomies might happen frequently at night.
Especially if a dog doesn’t get at least 30 minutes of exercise during the day. Or if they were mostly confined in a crate.
Zoomies are a dog’s way to release excess energy. So if your pooch always does this at night, they may not be receiving enough stimulation.
Or, this could also happen if you’re gone most of the day. And this is why your dog’s so excited to play with you in the evening.
#2: Sleep disorders
Next, dogs sure love to sleep.
In fact, they spend almost 80% of their day lying down, according to PetMD.
So if your pooch whines and can’t sleep well at night…
It may also be due to sleep disorders.
Yup. You’ve read it right.
Like humans, canines might also have trouble sleeping. And this could be dangerous as lack of rest results in a weaker immune system. Making them more susceptible to illnesses.
Experts share 4 common sleep disorders in dogs. And they’re as follows:
- Insomnia – Finding it hard to stay asleep.
- Narcolepsy – Waking up easily and falling asleep all of a sudden.
- Sleep apnea – Sudden jolting of the body due to difficulty in breathing.
- REM behavior disorder – Violent behavior while dreaming (e.g., growling, howling, kicking).
Note: Occasional dreams or nightmares can also wake up dogs from sleep. These are usually accompanied by barking, growling, or twitching. But if you see your dog dreaming, experts say to “let sleeping dogs lie.”
#3: Strange odors and noises
It’s 12 midnight. But suddenly…
Your pooch wakes up and keeps staring at the ceiling. OMG!
This scenario may give us the creeps. As we can’t see or hear anything at all.
But, don’t worry.
Dogs don’t have extra-sensory perception, a.k.a ESP, to detect dead spirits.
Experts reveal that they can hear soft sounds that are impossible for humans to perceive.
Because canines catch noises from 47,000 to 65,000 Hz. While we could only hear up to 20,00 Hz.
“How about their sense of smell?”
Specialists say that dogs have the ability to detect 1 rotten apple out of 2 million casks. And this is no exaggeration.
Sniffing canines like German Shepherds can locate bombs, human bodies, and drugs. While some dogs could even smell human diseases such as diabetes.
So, if your pooch suddenly gets up then barks or stares at anything, look at their ears and nose. They’re likely twitching as they’re locating where the sounds and scents are coming from.
Your dog might have sensed some mice crawling at the ceiling. A wild animal roaming nearby. Or a man starting the engine of his car several blocks away.
Interesting fact: Stanley Coren found that canines can detect earthquakes as well. 49% of dogs in his study showed anxious behaviors on one particular day in 2001. It’s the day before a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Western Washington.
He said that this might be due to dogs’ amazing senses. As it’s possible that they hear the breaking and grinding of rocks underneath. (Amazing!)
You might also like: Why do dogs howl at 3 AM? 11 spooky reasons
There are times when we can’t sleep well because of stress, right?
But, did you know that it’s also the same for our 4-legged friends?
One research found that after stressful situations, dogs can’t have a nice sleep as well.
But what’s more interesting is that…
Stressed dogs tend to sleep faster than those who aren’t. And they’re also in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage for longer periods.
(Quick info: It’s a phase of sleep where our eyes move a lot. And when dreams start to appear.)
“But why’s that?”
It was said to be due to quiescence or inactivity that was triggered by stress.
An automatic response to anxiety that protects the body. Like when we become drowsy and sleepy when sick to help us recover.
However, although they can sleep fast, the quality of their rest isn’t good. Because they also wake up easily.
“But my dog often seems so anxious, especially at night.
If they’re highly anxious, it might be due to…
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
This is a condition caused by a traumatic event in the past. And its symptoms are similar in humans, like:
- Clingy behavior.
- Being hyperalert.
- Increased irritability.
But unlike us, canines may also soil the house, pant, and cower all of a sudden.
In this case, there could be some triggers of PTSD during nighttime which keep dogs awake. Like turning off the lights, shadows, and certain noises.
For further reading: Why is my dog restless at night all of sudden? 9 real reasons + 9 tips to fix it
#5: Separation anxiety
Canine Health Foundation says that when a dog has a noise phobia…
There’s a 88% chance that they’ll also suffer from separation anxiety.
Well, come to think of it.
If dogs are scared of certain noises, they’ll also be afraid to be alone. And they can go in panic when their human is out of sight.
So if a canine with separation issues sleeps away from their parents, they may have a bad quality of sleep.
And show unwanted behaviors in the middle of the night. Like excessive barking, howling, and chewing on things.
Is your pooch a ‘cuddler’?
If so, they might only want to climb on your bed. And sleep by your side.
Some dog breeds can be clingier than others. So they prefer sticking with their humans even at bedtime.
Well, here’s the velcro dogs’ hall of fame:
#7: Toilet breaks
Do you have a puppy or a senior pooch?
If so and they wake you up once every night, they might be asking you to take them outside.
PetMD says that dogs below 3 months can only hold their pee for 4 hours. As well as smaller dogs due to their compact bladder.
This is also the same for senior dogs. As they’re starting to lose control of their bladder as they age.
While adults and larger breeds will urinate every 6 to 8 hours.
So if you’re sleeping at night, expect at least a single trip to the toilet.
But when it comes to (excuse me if you’re eating) poop…
Pups usually eliminate 10 to 15 minutes after meals. And an average dog can defecate 3 times a day.
So if you didn’t take your pooch outside to eliminate, they’ll likely do it during bedtime.
Another reason is that your dog’s tummy is rumbling at night.
VCA says that canines’ stomachs become empty after 8 or 10 hours.
And they need to be fed at least 2 times a day with a maximum 12-hour gap.
So your pooch might be extra hungry if they were not given enough food during the day. Or there’s an issue with their new diet – lack of nutrients.
“But I’m sure that I feed my dog right. What seems to be the problem?”
Canines are also creatures of habit.
So if your dog gets midnight snacks whenever they wake up, they’ll likely do it again. And this results in a disrupted sleeping pattern.
Also, feeding canines ‘freely.’ Or leaving too much food every time may lead to:
And these could make them crave food even after eating dinner.
Does your pooch suddenly wake you up while barking and panting?
If so, they might be in need of some fresh water. So make sure to always refill their bowl before bedtime.
Dogs will also be thirsty every meal and after exercise. As well as if the weather’s hot or the air inside the room is too dry.
If your doggo’s so thirsty for no apparent reason, their diet may be the culprit. Because too much dry food will make them drink more water.
Or this could also be a result of…
#10: Urinary and digestive problems
It’s natural for dogs to get hungry or thirsty sometimes during midnight. And also have urgent bathroom breaks.
However, if your pooch seems to be doing it regularly…
And their behavior seems too much (e.g., always hungry, peeing a lot), it can also be a sign of an ailment.
So pay close attention to your pooch. And watch out for other signs such as:
- Stomach pain.
While extreme hunger might be due to:
- Intestinal cancer.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
And frequent bowel movement or diarrhea could be a result of:
- Organ malfunction.
- Sensitive digestive tract.
- Bacterial or viral infections.
- Inflammatory intestinal diseases.
#11: Extreme itchiness
Have you seen your dog scratching their body? Or licking their toes?
It’ll also be difficult for canines to sleep if they feel itchy all over.
So they’re going to wake up randomly during bedtime. Or stay awake for most of the night.
Some common reasons are yeast infection and atopic dermatitis. As well as food allergies and insect bites.
And usually, you’ll notice dogs scratching or chewing their:
- Front limbs.
Note: If you notice that your dog’s been licking themselves a lot, check their skin for redness or open wounds. VCA says to wash the area with warm tap water. And avoid using shampoos or soap. Then consult your vet to know your dog’s current condition.
#12: Injury or joint pains
Canines can’t tell their parents if they’re hurt or sick. When they are, they usually hide it from us.
“Why are they doing that?”
It’s because they have a high threshold for pain. Plus, being animals, they feel unsafe if they show their vulnerable side.
Hiding their pain is instinctual. In the wild, they wouldn’t survive if they appear vulnerable to other animals.
However, there will be times when your dog won’t be able to conceal their discomfort – especially at night.
For example, an old dog with arthritis won’t sleep well. This is because joint pains hurt most in the evening.
Also, a canine with spinal cord injury can wake up in the middle of the night. As research shows that it’ll cause dogs to lose control over their bladder and bowel.
“How will I know if my dog has an injury or joint issues?”
Canines who have this might:
- Yelp or grunt when touched.
- Be reluctant to get up/walk/play.
- Have trouble keeping up with walks.
You may also wonder: Why does my dog groan when I pick him up?
#13: Canine dementia
Apart from frequent potty breaks and joint pains…
Senior dogs can also suffer from memory loss.
Making them confused, irritable, and wandering around at nighttime.
So if your old dog walks aimlessly every night at the same hour.
Then sleeps all day and wakes up several times in the evening, it might not be a sleep disorder…
But a case of dog dementia.
Other common symptoms of this based on a study are as follows:
- Inability to recognize parents.
- Changes in sleeping patterns.
#BONUS: Uncomfy sleeping spot
Does your pooch get up from their bed and sleep somewhere else?
Say, on the cold floor of the bathroom?
If yes, it might be because they feel uncomfortable.
An old dog who has an injury or aching joints, may not find their bed comfy enough. Or it’s either too hot or cold in the room.
So if your pooch is sleeping beside you, they can wake up in the middle of a hot night. As they’ll seek a cooler sleeping spot. Or the other way around if your dog feels cold.
Why does my dog wake up in the middle of the night to poop?
Your dog wakes up in the middle of the night to poop because of their routine or feeding time. They might be eating dinner too late in the evening. Or they’re used to eliminating during these hours.
But, if your dog has loose stools and often needs to poop, they may have an upset stomach.
This can be due to:
- Food allergies.
- Change in diet.
- Intestinal inflammation.
- Ingesting something they shouldn’t (e.g., table scraps, garbage).
Why does my older dog wake up in the middle of the night to poop?
Your older dog wakes up in the middle of the night to poop because they now have weak bowel control. Or they have a stomach problem.
As canines age, they’ll slowly lose muscle tone. And in other cases, bowel incontinence will happen. In which dogs won’t be able to control their defecation anymore.
If they have loose stools, it can be a reaction to a certain food or caused by parasites. But this may also be a side effect of medication, like:
- Heart medications.
Why does my dog wake up in the middle of the night to pee?
Your dog wakes up in the middle of the night to pee because they can’t hold their bladder well. Or they haven’t relieved themselves before bedtime.
Usually, puppies, small breeds, and old dogs need to pee every 4 hours. As they find it hard to contain their urine longer than that. So it’s normal for them to pee once every night.
Adult and bigger dogs can hold their bladder longer. However, they still need to be taken outside to do their business before sleeping.
But if your dog has been peeing a lot these days. And they’re also drinking too much water, it might be due to medication. Or even an illness like diabetes.
Why does my dog wake up in the middle of the night with diarrhea?
Your dog wakes up in the middle of the night with diarrhea because of changes in diet. And also by eating non-edible things. Like garbage, spoiled food, or rocks.
Abrupt changes in their meals can affect their digestion. And ingesting non-food items may irritate their intestines as well.
But sometimes, diarrhea is also a sign of:
- Liver disease.
- Kidney disease.
- Addison’s disease.
- Sensitive digestive tract.
Why does my dog wake up in the middle of the night to drink?
Your dog wakes up in the middle of the night to drink because they didn’t have enough water during the day. But excessive thirst can also be due to boredom, habit, or warm dry air in the house. It could also happen due to a medical condition.
Specific reasons that need medical attention are:
- Kidney stones.
- Addison’s disease.
- Cushing’s disease.
- Kidney or liver disease.
- Poisoning (e.g., excess sodium).
Why does my dog wake up in the middle of the night to eat?
Your dog wakes up in the middle of the night to eat because they got used to it. However, if they’re always hungry, it might be due to poor diet, overfeeding, or an illness.
Once your pooch often gets late-night treats, chances are, they’ll remember it. And seek it every time.
Giving too much food since they were puppies can also make dogs binge eat. And this may lead to obesity.
But if this is a new behavior, it could be due to their new diet. Or a symptom of an ailment. Like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or intestinal problems.
How do I stop my dog from waking up in the night? 5 tips
#1: Enrich your dog’s daytime activities
Like us, canines may also sleep better after a tiring, but enjoyable day.
How can you achieve this?
By giving your dog a balanced mind and body workout.
You’ll avoid FRAPs and boredom at night if canines receive enough exercise.
Working dogs need at least 2 hours of physical activity. While small and giant Fidos demand at least 30 minutes or an hour. And it’s less for pups and senior canines.
So, walk your pooch longer. As research reveals that dog parents also benefit from this. Because this activity boosts their happiness.
Talk about a win-win situation! 🙂
But if your Fido’s more energetic, they might appreciate running or hiking.
Moving on to mental exercises…
Working out a dog’s mind isn’t only limited to teaching them tricks.
Because to get their brains working, you can also give them puzzle toys to solve. Or make them do some fun nose work.
Let your dog sniff during walks. (But be alert of hazards outside – like thorns or bones.) And also, make them find hidden toys or treats.
#2: Establish a regular routine
If your adult pooch always wakes up at midnight for bathroom breaks or more snacks…
It’s now time for you to check your dog’s schedule. And make appropriate adjustments.
Change their feeding time
In this case, always feed your pooch early in the evening. And keep in mind that their meals should be 12 hours apart at most.
So let’s say you wake up every 5 am in the morning, feed your dog dinner around 5 pm. This is to prevent them from waking up in the middle of the night.
By doing this, you’ll also ensure that they’ll relieve themselves before bedtime.
But for this to happen, walk your dog as well.
Walk them before or after meals
Vets claim that walking your dog helps them digest well.
So do this before or after their meals (either will do). But, wait at least 1 hour before you feed or walk them to avoid bloat.
Establish a bedtime
It’s also best to have a certain routine that’ll let your dog know that it’s time for bed. Especially if you have a hyperactive pooch.
For this, you can:
- Give them a soothing massage.
- Bring out your Fido’s cuddle toy.
- Walk your dog (like I said earlier).
- Play with them for a bit before sleeping.
Wanna know more about the healing power of touch?
Read this article next: 19 Proven Ways To Calm Your Anxious Dog (How-To Guide)
#3: Modify their diet
Aside from feeding time, the food itself can also be the culprit for a dog’s interrupted sleep.
Food allergies may cause itchiness. As well as an upset stomach. While:
- Excess carbs and sugar: Result in hyperactivity in dogs.
- Lack of fiber and a high-fat diet: May cause loose stools.
- Nutrient deficiency/poor-quality dog food: Increases dog’s appetite.
So if you suspect that food is the cause of this, start by giving your pooch basic meals. Say, unseasoned and cooked chicken with white rice.
This combo can help calm down their irritated tummy and diarrhea. And also, consider giving your dog probiotics to help with their digestion.
Cutting down treats and foods might help too if your dog’s been pooping a lot.
Note: Before making any changes, consult first with your vet. This is to ensure that your dog will get enough nutrients needed for their growth. And also to avoid more stomach problems.
#4: Rule out medical conditions
Canines need enough sleep every night. And so do you.
Dogs usually doze off for 12 hours per day. While humans require 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.
So for both of you to have a nice rest, it’s best to have your dog checked by their vet at once. Or you can consult one online.
#5: Provide a comfier sleeping spot
Lastly, to have a nice slumber, dogs also need a soothing environment.
- Dim lights – to stimulate the release of melatonin or ‘sleep hormone.’
- A comfy bed or crate – consider orthopedic beds for dogs with arthritis.
- No loud noises – lower TV volume, play white noise instead (e.g., turn on radio).
- Ideal room temperature – not below 45°F (7°C) but no more than 85°F (29.5°C).
It’s normal for dogs to wake up a few times during the night. Especially if you have a puppy or a senior Fido.
So be prepared for at least 1 short trip to the bathroom.
Crate training will also help in-house training puppies. Plus, it’ll also serve as a secure nice area for them.
Just avoid using it as a punishment. And associate their crate with positive experiences.
You can leave some chewy toys inside. Or kongs filled with yummy treats (e.g., unsweetened peanut butter) to keep them happy and occupied.